No Medicaid expansion till 2015 for Pennsylvania, top official says

As Pennsylvania lawmakers consider whether to expand their Medicaid program under the reform law, a top state official said even if Gov. Tom Corbett approves, it would take until at least January 2015 to negotiate and implement the expansion.

So far, Corbett hasn't explicitly supported expanding Medicaid in Pennsylvania, but he said he would consider enlarging Medicaid if the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services can help keep it financially viable, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

Corbett met with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius last month and, since then, state officials have been preparing different models under which the state could expand Medicaid, Beverly Mackereth, acting secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, told the Post-Gazette.

However, even if the models convince Corbett to support expanding Medicaid, it's unlikely a decision can be made early enough for the expansion to occur before January 2015, due to negotiations and work needed to implement the program, the Post-Gazette noted.

"If everything goes right, and everything is agreed to, and the governor decides that the plan is sustainable and responsible for [Pennsylvania], the earliest that I'm hearing today--very ambiguous, and please print it that way--probably would be January 2015," Mackereth said. "And those are huge 'ifs.'"

But some lawmakers think Pennsylvania could begin expanding Medicaid by 2014, as the reform law requires. "There's no question in my mind the administration is dragging their feet," state Sen. Jay Costa said. "You get tired of hearing excuses. Either they're inept and they can't analyze data--and they've had over a year and a half--or they don't want to do it."

What's more, Democratic lawmakers say if the state does wait until 2015, it would be losing billions of dollars, according to the Associated Press. "I think Pennsylvania citizens would have a big problem--a big problem--if $4 billion targeted toward Pennsylvania found their way somewhere else across the county, especially in a tight budget situation," said Sen. Vincent Hughes.

To learn more:
- read the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article
- see the Associated Press article